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  A Royal Honeymoon in Rajasthan Part 3

Contributed by Anil Mulchandani
Email : ssibal@ad1.vsnl.net.in
Website:www.ahmedabadcity.com/html/anil.html
Photographs by Dinesh Shukla
Website: www.ahmedabadcity.com/html/dinesh.html

The second part of this article was featured last month.
Click here to read.

GAJNER PALACE HOTEL, BIKANER

But the best was yet to be as we learnt at Gajner, after a 6 hour long drive. Gajner Palace is a beautiful 19th century pink sandstone building with pleasant courtyards filled with large, leafy trees. The jarokhas facing the lake and courtyards are beautifully carved and the corridors are lined with pillars and wildlife paintings. Our room was no 106, on the first floor. It was spacious and high ceilinged , with old fashioned brass beds, carved fireplace, antique wooden dressing table, old English wall paper and a luxuriant carpet. The jarokha window brought in a fabulous lake viewt-we could see ducks, spoonbills and herons on the water, and an endless number of blackbuck antelope, chinkara gazelle, blue bull and wild boar coming to drink water all day. The dining hall was great as well, and so was the drawing room used for conferences. We were delighted to have breakfast on a biradari overlooking the lake and watching imperial sandgrouse flying in to drink water in large flocks

With Gajner as the base we visited Bikaner. The 16th century Junagadh fort, here, we found to be as impressive as Kumbalgadh and Mehrangadh, but lacking their formidable hilltop location. Inside, it was one of the prettiest of forts-we saw the beautiful red and gold painted walls of Lal vilas, the mirrorwork of shish mahal, the marble decorations and carvings of Chandra Mahal, the magnificent laquer painted Anup mahal, chambers with superb furniture-and a WWII period biplane. Lalgadh palace is another of the beautiful sandstone palaces with plenty of carvings and latticework, surrounding a huge courtyard garden. It is set in some 25 acres of park-like grounds. The Sadul sinhji museum in the Lalgadh has a number of paintings and photographs depicting the recent history of Bikaner.

BALSAMMAND LAKE PALACE, JODHPUR

We returned to Jodhpur, and this time, decided to stay at the Balsammand lake Palace, which had the combined advantage of being located in Jodhpur yet far away from the busy areas of the city. Balsammand palace was built as a pavilion by Maharajah Sur Sinhji in the 1600s, facing the Balsammand lake, Rajasthan's oldest artificial reservoir created in 1159 AD, was converted into a summer palace by Maharajah Jaswant sinhji and later renovated by Maharajah Umaid Sinhji. Fresh winds from the lake waft into the latticed windows, arches and Jarokhas of the palace, but as the suites in the palace were under renovation, we stayed in cottage-like rooms in the 175 acres of fruit orchards, flower gardens and lawns behind the palace, which were simple but comfortable. Here, my wife, Jyoti, felt really royal walking among the peacocks and roses, relaxing by lily pools, sitting under domes on the lakeside and strolling through mango, banana, papaya and pomegranate groves which resounds with the sounds of Indian grey partridges, lapwings, peafowl and parakeets. Meals were served in a royal tent on the lawn and we enjoyed breakfast on the lawns beside a lily covered canal with a delightful bridge enhancing the old world charm of the property.


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